Sleep-deprived Yan awakens winning instinct

By JAMES BOYLAN| (China Daily)| Updated : 2022-04-21

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Yan Bingtao lines up a shot during his first-round win over Chris Wakelin at the World Snooker Championship on Tuesday. PA

Star shakes off tiredness to set up clash with champ

China's Yan Bingtao defied the effects of a near-sleepless night to drag himself into the second round of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, England.

The 2021 Masters champion convincingly dispatched England's Chris Wakelin 10-6 on Tuesday and set up a mouth-watering meeting with reigning world champion Mark Selby.

The 22-year-old Yan, who hails from Zibo, Shandong province, led 5-4 after the first session against Wakelin. But after the Englishman tied the match in the first frame of the second session, Yan was his trademark cool self to ease into the last 16.

Afterward, Yan revealed his assured performance at the Crucible Theatre belied a dreadful night's sleep.

"I felt very confident, I played very well this morning," he said. "This year the championship feels different, compared to the last two years.

"I'm just trying to relax ahead of my matches so I feel more confident. But I always feel pressure. Last night I only slept two hours so I am feeling very tired now."

Yan slotted in breaks of breaks of 71, 68, 79, 69, 56, 62, 84 and 100 en route to his 5-4 first-session lead. After Wakelin won the opening frame of the second session with a visit of 77, Yan rattled off the next four frames to go 9-5 up.

Wakelin edged the 15th frame, but couldn't hold off Yan from sealing victory in the next.

Yan ended the match with 11 breaks of more than 50, with the highest of his two centuries a 106 in frame 12.

Indicative of how highly Yan is rated by his fellow pros, Wakelin declared himself happy with his performance.

"I'm really delighted with how I've performed here today. If I'd been facing anyone else in the draw I'd probably have come out a comfortable winner. But hats off to Yan, he just played absolutely phenomenal snooker today. He did not give me an inch," said Wakelin.

"It's been a testing season, I've made a lot of changes to my lifestyle such as losing weight. I've smashed that, I've lost four stone (25 kilograms). I don't feel like today was a loss. I feel like I did myself justice and I was really pleased with how I played."

World No 16 Yan will now face a considerable step up in class when he faces Selby in round two, with both players renowned for their shrewd tactical game and calmness around the table.

"It will be a great match against Mark Selby. Many people say we are similar players. I cannot wait to play him in a best-of-25 match," said Yan. "I will just try to enjoy it. Mark has very good control over the table. I always try to be as good as he is in safety (shots)."

"I am very lucky because I didn't go to the Gibraltar Open, I could have been knocked out of the top 16, and then I would have had to qualify (for the championship)."

Four-time and reigning world champion Selby, who beat Shaun Murphy in last year's final, had to battle hard to earn a 10-7 victory over Welshman Jamie Jones in round one.

The 38-year-old from Leicester has been vocal about his battle with depression in recent times. Speaking just before this year's championship began, Selby revealed he had sought professional help for his mental health problems.

"I have had no motivation and it is hard to explain it other than to people who have had it (depression). The temptation is to say, 'Just snap out of it,' but I just never know how I am going to feel," Selby told The Sportsman.

"I can wake up and feel a little better, then as the day goes on and I have a cloudy patch and feel much worse. It feels like I am fighting myself every day, but I have got great support around me with (wife) Vikki and the family, and now this doctor."

Speaking after his victory over Jones, Selby said: "It was great. Emotional walking out today and I got a great reception. It is nice to be back playing as I wasn't really sure if I would play in the world championship. The result for me today was irrelevant, I am happy to win and I enjoyed it."

Yan joins compatriot Zhao Xintong in round two-a player he lost 9-0 to in January's German Masters final. Lyu Haotian couldn't make it three Chinese in the last 16 as he lost 10-5 to 2015 champion Stuart Bingham. China's Ding Junhui was due to be in action on Wednesday against Kyren Wilson.